Sat, Sep 15, 2018 - Page 7 News List

El Salvador probes alleged graft


Prosecutors in El Salvador are investigating the alleged diversion of about US$10 million in funds donated by Taiwan and purportedly used to pay for political campaigning by the ruling party.

Prosecutor Douglas Melendez on Thursday said in a TV interview that the money came from US$38 million that Taipei gave to the Salvadorean Ministry of Foreign Affairs for various projects.

The funds were diverted to the presidency and “apparently used in a partisan campaign” under then-Salvadorean president Mauricio Funes in elections won by Salvadorean President Salvador Sanchez Ceren, an ally in their Farabundo Marto National Liberation Front (FMLN) party, Melendez said.

Melendez said former Salvadoran minister of foreign affairs Hugo Martinez has been questioned, because it was under his watch that the money was allegedly passed to the presidency.

Martinez is the party’s candidate in a presidential election scheduled for next year.

The FMLN political commission issued a statement calling the accusations “baseless” and accusing Melendez of “attacking our candidate and our party in a slanderous and irresponsible way.”

El Salvador last month switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China, although there was no suggestion of any link between that change and the investigation.

Earlier this week, former Salvadoran president Tony Saca of the Nationalist Republican Alliance party was sentenced to 10 years in prison for embezzlement and money laundering, along with several associates who also pleaded guilty.

These investigations show that “nobody wears a crown in this country. Nobody is above the law,” Melendez said.

Funes was president from 2009 to 2014. He and multiple former officials and family members are accused of corruption.

He is currently in Nicaragua, where he was granted asylum. He denies wrongdoing.

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